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Comics Corner: Is it time to reboot? No, I mean reset.

Comics Corner

The question, ‘Is it time to reboot?’ has been on my mind regarding the DC universe for some time. I’m a huge fan of DC, but lately, there are so many characters that I don’t even know many of their names. Some of my favorite characters haven’t shown up—in some cases, for years. The ones that do appear are usually only used as cookie-cutter tools to move a plot along or to prop up a Batman or Superman story that’s been told a thousand times. I’m not sure why DC and Marvel can’t understand that those unicorn readers, if they exist, are reading manga they got at Barnes & Noble or Walmart. The comics try to be relevant by introducing topics that writers believe will attract new readers. Time after time, this approach fails and only succeeds in driving away long-time readers. I dislike when these types of stories are labeled ‘woke’ or something similar because those who use the term often come from a perspective of homophobia, transphobia, or racism. That’s not what I’m referring to in this column. And for the record, when a comic is blatantly right-wing in its themes, it fails harder than the so-called ‘woke’ takes. But that’s a tangent to my original question, which I can now answer. Is it time to not just reboot (as with the New 52 in 2011), but to perform a wholesale reset?

My answer is yes.

My memory may be a little faulty, and I’ll set aside the licensed (Star Trek) and independent comics for the moment, but I can reasonably say I’ve read two comics this year that I really enjoyed. The first was ‘Ultimate Spider-Man no. 1,’ and the second was ‘The Bat-Man: First Knight.’ Both were good starts to stories with great artwork, but most importantly, they came with no baggage. I’m not a big Marvel reader. I regularly pick up an issue of Spider-Man or the more horror-themed characters. I used to read ‘Young Avengers,’ but I couldn’t care less about the regular Avengers, Captain Marvel, etc. However, I could read this ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’ and not have to know what Doctor Strange was doing in some event teaming up with the Avengers and the X-Men. The same is true with Batman. It was a new Batman in a world not littered with superheroes around every corner. Even in the modern Batman universe that I do follow, there’s no Commissioner Gordon, the bat signal rarely appears, and Robin had to be made Batman’s own son so that the actual Robin could be sidelined. Oh, and Alfred is dead, and Batman and Joker are, in some ways, frenemies. DC has ruined characters like Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and to some degree, Catwoman and Commissioner Gordon. Even Bruce Wayne, no longer a billionaire, has no mansion and lives out of a small-town apartment. But there are at least twenty Bat-family members ready to help out. Yet, who does he end up with? Not one of the Robins, but the Joker.

So, my solution is to reset the universe. Go back—all the way back to the golden age. It doesn’t have to be 1938 or '39, but if so, that would be fine. I want to see the first Batman, the first Superman, the first Spider-Man, the X-Men when I knew who they were. Speaking of the mutants, I was excited when the Krakoa era started, but after a few issues, I couldn’t follow it anymore. I recently saw the 2024 relaunch plan. It looked like it might be a good jumping-on point, but the more I learn, the more likely it seems that it will be just more regurgitation of characters and stories that leave me equally lost once more.

The New 52 came closest to anything that could be called a reboot in modern times. However, it was eventually saddled with the same continuity problems that plagued the pre-2011 universe. There are some who value the past more than the potential of what could be—and I understand that. I love Tim Drake and wish DC did too. But it wouldn’t make sense to have Tim around in a reset universe; Dick Grayson would be Robin. Similarly, there would be no Conner Kent or others. But maybe that’s okay. Perhaps DC should find writers who can tell, first and foremost, good stories about the beginning of Batman’s journey. It doesn’t have to follow the same map as the first time around. Maybe in this new hypothetical universe, Tim is the first Robin. The comics shouldn’t just retell the same stories and origins. The New 52 Batman’s biggest mistake was trying to cram at least a decade’s worth of in-universe events into less than five years. Batman shouldn’t have started out with already having had three Robins and a teenage son. That’s less than one per year—and that’s just stupid.

As I was preparing to publish this article, Bleeding Cool broke the news that a new line of comics run by Scott Snyder at DC was in the works. The details are not yet clear, but it seems that even with this ‘Ultimate’-style line, if that is what ultimately comes to fruition, DC wants to hang on to their nearly 90 years of baggage in some way. This approach has been tried with the Earth One graphic novels and various other attempts to bring a clean slate to our favorite characters. Comic book followers will note that none of those initiatives are currently in production. In fact, it took about a decade to release Superman, Batman, Teen Titans, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern books. Will this new line change DC’s luck in the reboot game? Will we ever see the excitement—and sales—of the New 52 again? Time will tell, and if it’s good, I’ll be there. If we get something along the lines of ‘Bat-Man: First Knight,’ I think we can rest assured that DC understands the quandary they are in. If we get a reworked ‘Rebirth’ or ‘DCYou,’ I may just sit this one out.


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